UPDATES: Kamala Harris visits Georgia on Friday to rally early-voters

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris responds to cheering supporters as she takes the stage for an early-voting event at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, Monday, October 19, 2020.  (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)
Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris responds to cheering supporters as she takes the stage for an early-voting event at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, Monday, October 19, 2020. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris visited Atlanta on Friday to rally voters to cast their ballots early as polls show a neck-and-neck race between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden in a state Republicans have long dominated.

The California senator landed at Hartsfield-Jackson airport shortly before noon, where she touted Democratic proposals to expand coronavirus testing and boost stimulus spending for small businesses. She also warned that nearly half of Black-owned businesses could be “permanently closed because of the failure of this administration.”

“The people of Georgia deserve to have a president who sees them, who cares about them,” Harris said shortly after stepping on the tarmac. “Georgia has been so hard-hit by the pandemic.”

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She headlined a fundraiser at The Gathering Spot and was scheduled to make several other stops around Atlanta before a late Friday rally aimed at energizing Georgia Democrats.

The visit, on the heels of the second and final presidential debate, is Harris' first visit to Georgia since Biden tapped her as his running-mate in August from a group of finalists that included former gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

It comes days after U.S. Sen. David Perdue mocked the pronunciation of Harris' name at a Trump rally in Macon, triggering intense backlash that yielded roughly $2 million in donations for his Democratic rival, Jon Ossoff.

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Harris recently returned to the campaign trail after postponing several events when two people in her entourage tested positive for the coronavirus. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, campaigned in Atlanta on Sunday and fired back at Perdue, who intentionally butchered Harris' name at the Friday rally.

“Let me help what’s-his-face pronounce this: M-V-P,” Emhoff said. “If he can’t remember her name, how about Madam Vice President?”

Democrats hope Harris, the first woman of color on a major party’s presidential ticket, will help energize Black voters who form the backbone of the Democratic party in Georgia. More than 2.3 million Georgians have already voted early, and overall turnout is expected to surpass 5 million – smashing a state record.

A flurry of recent polls show Biden and Trump deadlocked in the state, which Democrats last carried in 1992, and the tight race has forced Republicans on the defensive. Trump visited Macon last week to mobilize white rural voters, his second trip to Georgia in less than a month, and his son Donald Trump Jr. had stops in Atlanta and Macon on Friday.

Harris said Democrats present a competing vision to contain a pandemic that’s killed more than 220,000 Americans.

”We’re here to talk about what Joe and I are prepared to do," she said. "We have a plan that’s about national testing, contact tracing. We have a plan that’s about supporting small businesses and supporting working families.”

ExploreAs Biden threatens in Georgia, Trump aims to turn out white rural voters

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